Tuesday, April 20, 2021
The lawmakers’ bipartisan, bicameral legislation would implement numerous policy changes within the VA to prevent and address sexual harassment
Following the release of a government watchdog report exposing alarming instances of sexual harassment by employees and management failures at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), U.S. Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Representatives Chris Pappas (D-N.H.) and Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) are introducing bipartisan and bicameral legislation to drastically improve policies and oversight and to crack down on harassment at the department.
The lawmakers’ new legislation, the Improving VA Accountability to Prevent Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Act of 2021, would implement numerous policy changes within the VA based on recommendations from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. The report—requested by Senator Ernst, herself a combat veteran and survivor of sexual assault—revealed that the VA does not require reporting of all sexual harassment complaints, has an improper leadership structure for overseeing their sexual harassment process, and has incomplete and outdated policies, information, and training.
“Sexual harassment must be addressed and rooted out no matter where it exists, but under no circumstance can it be permitted under the roof of our nation’s VA—a place so many of our veterans trust and rely on,” said Senator Joni Ernst. “As a sexual assault survivor and a combat veteran myself, I’m disturbed by the failures that have gone on at the VA for far too long. It’s past time we take action with this bipartisan and bicameral bill to expand oversight, improve policies, and ensure sexual harassment is prevented and dealt with properly and immediately.”
“It’s unacceptable that someone who has proudly served our nation is subjected to sexual harassment in the institution whose charge it is to serve them,” said Congressman Pappas. “I am proud to help introduce this legislation that takes critical steps to combat sexual harassment by updating the VA’s antiquated policies and structure in addition to creating stronger reporting requirements. I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure all of our veterans can be confident about accessing VA care in a safe, respectful setting.”
“The VA should be a place where veterans can go to feel supported and cared for, yet there is clear evidence of significant sexual harassment at the VA,” Senator Hassan said. “In order for veterans and staff to feel safe at the VA, we must take an aggressive approach to combat this harassment and ensure that survivors are being heard. I am glad to work with my colleagues across the aisle on this important bill that will take steps to hold perpetrators accountable.”
“The widespread failures at the Department of Veterans Affairs to address sexual harassment properly are inexcusable,” said Congresswoman Hinson. “Our bipartisan bill will help fix the systemic issues with how the VA handles sexual harassment and put policies in place to prevent it in the future. I thank Senator Joni Ernst for her continued leadership on this critical issue, which will no doubt help many veterans who have faced sexual harassment or discrimination, and I am proud to introduce this legislation alongside her.”
Friday, April 9, 2021
Women have fought too long to not be held responsible for the actions of their abusers; I cannot support legislation that would return us to the past.
Thirty years ago, before the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) became law, domestic violence was viewed as a behind-closed-doors, private matter between husband and wife. Victims were often told to just deal with it — weathering the emotional and physical impacts of abuse alone — sometimes even being blamed for causing the strife. Resources and services were scarce, and women had nowhere to turn.
Since its inception, VAWA has strengthened local, state, tribal, and federal responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Because of this important legislation, women now have places to turn for support.
Fortunately, Congress has continued to fund the VAWA programs year after year despite their “unauthorized” status because of folks like myself and others who recognize the need to ensure survivors are supported. But the fight over getting the bill reauthorized and modernized has become all too polarizing. My Democratic colleagues continue to read from the same script, year after year, attempting to hijack a bill for their own agenda on everything from gun control to sexual orientation. And admittedly some of my Republican colleagues have their own routine concerns with VAWA.
Negotiation is not an option
In March, the House of Representatives passed the mostly partisan Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2021. That bill has been sold by Democrats as a simple reauthorization of VAWA, but it is far from that. Just read the section of the bill on “Restorative Practice.” This practice shockingly funds programs that allow an abuser to negotiate with their victim in the name of “collectively seeking accountability from the accused.” While there might be decent intention behind this, it puts the responsibility of stopping abuse on the survivor.
Instead of going to jail, a wife-beater could sit across the table from their victim and discuss a settlement. Yes, you read that right; abuser and survivor in the same room, forced to negotiate. The bill states restorative practice would be “on a voluntary basis,” but given the way a victim has suffered, it won’t feel voluntary. Nothing about these crimes is voluntary.
While this approach might work for middle school conflicts or neighborly disputes about flowerbeds, it’s coercive, re-traumatizing, and could even be deadly when applied to survivors of domestic violence. Democrats want this radical approach to apply not just to survivors of domestic violence, but also sexual assault. This framework holds a victim responsible as an essentially equal partner in preventing future violence. This reminds me of how women were treated decades ago when they were asked what they did to deserve it and this kind of social experimentation has no place in VAWA.
A web of abuse
As a survivor of both domestic violence and sexual assault, I’m appalled at the lack of understanding regarding the complexities of the relationships between survivor and abuser, especially a long-term abuser. Untangling a web of abuse is a daunting task. The coercion and community pressure can be overwhelming. Under the Democrats’ bill, the victim would be responsible for publicly stating to her community whether her abuser should face consequences or not.
I am committed to reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act. It’s why I introduced a modernized version last Congress and intend to do so again — one that holds predators accountable and supports survivors in all communities, rural and urban. I stand ready to negotiate with my friends across the aisle. But the reality of a 50-50 Senate is that Democrats need to be willing to find consensus.
I will work with anyone on a bipartisan bill that increases funding for needed programs and makes appropriate, and necessary, updates to the law. But ideas like restorative practice have no place in a bill called the Violence Against Women Act. Women have fought too long to not be held responsible for the actions of their abusers. I cannot support legislation that would return us to the past.
Joni Ernst, a Republican, is a combat veteran and the junior U.S. senator from Iowa.
As published in USA Today.
Monday, March 29, 2021
The Iowa senator is backing legislation to eliminate a provision in the Democrats’ $1.9 trillion bill that punishes states wishing to provide tax relief to its citizens
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
The Iowa senator is backing legislation to close loopholes that encourage vulnerable immigration populations to take dangerous, illegal paths of entry into the U.S.
U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) is helping introduce the Stopping Border Surges Act, a bill to address loopholes in our immigration system which encourage vulnerable immigrant populations to take dangerous, illegal paths of entry into the United States.
Friday, March 19, 2021
Two Ernst-Backed Transparency Bills Advance With Unanimous, Bipartisan Support
The bills will help prevent duplicative and wasteful federal programs and allow for more information about government spending to be accessible to the public
With Sunshine Week coming to a close, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) had two transparency and government accountability bills she’s backing advance in the Senate with unanimous, bipartisan support. One bill will help prevent duplicative and wasteful federal programs while the other will allow for more information about government spending to be accessible to the public.
“In Washington, there’s no shortage of waste and duplicative government programs—always at the expense of the American taxpayer. We certainly need to cut the fat and get rid of unneeded federal programs, but, at the very least, hardworking taxpayers have a right to know where and how their money is being spent. These two bills will go a long way in cutting down on waste and shining light on the tax dollars being spent, and I’m pleased Democrats and Republicans agreed to move them forward,” said Senator Joni Ernst.
Ernst is an original cosponsor of the Duplication Reduction and Scoring Act and the Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act, which both passed out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee this week.
The Duplication Reduction and Scoring Act
The bill directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review each piece of legislation reported out of a committee to determine if it poses a risk of producing more duplication in areas of government where the GAO has already identified such problems in one of its duplication reports.
The Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act
This bill would put in place a requirement that agencies’ budget justifications are publicly available on a centralized website, as well as on each agency’s own website.
Wednesday, March 17, 2021
Ernst: Biden Fueling the Border Crisis by Unlawfully Suspending Border Wall Funding, Construction
Amid the rapidly escalating crisis along the southern border, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) joined her colleagues in highlighting President Joe Biden’s suspension of border wall funding and construction without lawful justification, as required by the Impoundment Control Act.
In a letter to GAO Comptroller General Gene L. Dorado, Ernst and her colleagues write, “On January 20th, in one of the first official acts of his presidency, Joseph Biden suspended border wall construction and ordered a freeze of funds provided by Congress for that purpose. In the weeks that followed, operational control of our southern border was compromised and a humanitarian and national security crisis has ensued.”
They go on to write: “The President’s actions directly contributed to this unfortunate, yet entirely avoidable, scenario. They are also a blatant violation of federal law and infringe on Congress’s constitutional power of the purse…We believe they violated the Impoundment Control Act (ICA), as interpreted by your office, and we request your legal opinion on the matter. Prompt action to end these violations is required to restore order at the border.”
To read the full letter, click here.
Last week, Senator Ernst published an op-ed outlining the border crisis as both a humanitarian one and threat to U.S. national security and urged President Biden and his administration to acknowledge the border crisis.
As the lead Republican on the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, Ernst highlighted the importance of defending the border against the threat of Transnational Criminal Organizations and other nefarious influencers—including Iran, Russia, and China—and called on her colleagues to work together to secure the border.
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
Ernst Statement on Regan Confirmation Vote
U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, voted in opposition to Michael Regan to be the next Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Following the vote, Ernst issued this statement:
“While I appreciate Mr. Regan’s experience working on environmental issues and his commitment to taking into consideration the opinions of our farmers when it comes to implementing the Biden agenda, I still have serious concerns about the path this administration will take on issues like renewable fuel and agency rulemaking. President Biden has already taken steps to roll back the Trump Administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule and transition the federal fleet to electric vehicles. This, coupled with the unsuccessful record of the Obama-Biden Administration on securing E15 year-round and their harmful WOTUS rule leave me concerned about how Mr. Regan will handle important issues to Iowans. Regardless of who is leading the EPA, I will continue to be a champion for my home state’s biofuel industry, farmers, manufacturers, and businesses and stand up against radical policies like the Green New Deal,” Ernst said.
Last week, Ernst questioned Mr. Regan at a Senate EPW Committee hearing on his commitment to defending the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and his view on the Trump Administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule that replaced the unpopular Obama-era Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule.
Tuesday, March 9, 2021
Ernst: U.S. “must maintain sanctions on the Iranian regime…”
The Iowa senator joins 29 colleagues on a resolution opposing lifting sanctions against Iran
As Iran continues moving ahead in advancing its nuclear program and beginning to produce uranium metal, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, is joining 29 of her Senate colleagues in calling for the U.S. to oppose lifting sanctions against the country.
“The United States must maintain sanctions on the Iranian regime until it abandons its nuclear ambitions and completely ends its support for violence and funding terrorism around the region. Iran took advantage of weak policies during the Obama Administration, and President Biden must not repeat those same mistakes,” said Senator Joni Ernst.
Ernst today announced her support for a Senate resolution calling for the U.S. to maintain sanctions against Iran.
Ernst has been outspoken in calling on the Biden Administration to make a top priority of keeping our nation and the world safe from the threat of Iran, penning an op-ed in the Washington Examiner. Last week, Ernst called on the Biden Administration to work with our allies and partners to impose a new arms embargo on Iran.
She also helped introduce a resolution expressing opposition to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and urging President Biden to work with Congress and refuse to re-join the deal without significant reform. She also joined Senator Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) on a bill that would enable Congress to approve—or block—any effort by the administration to suspend or terminate U.S. sanctions against the Iranian regime.
Following the recent U.S. strike in Syria, Ernst said that Iran’s aggression must be countered with a strong, decisive response and that the United States cannot afford to pivot to a weak policy against Iran, like another failed nuclear deal.
Monday, March 8, 2021
Ernst: The Democrats’ “COVID Relief” Bill is Partisan, Pricey, and Full of Pet Projects
It’s no secret that the worst global pandemic in a generation has brought unforeseen challenges and hardships. But it’s often during these challenging times when the American people band together, and we’ve seen it: folks across Iowa have risen to the occasion to help out their friends, family members, neighbors, and communities. We’ve also seen it in our government. Even in increasingly partisan times, state legislatures—and even Congress—have worked across party lines to provide relief to those who need it.
I’ve been proud to work with Democrats and Republicans to pass five overwhelmingly bipartisan packages to support Iowans and all Americans. And last week, I was ready to do it again.
Unfortunately, my friends across the aisle had a different idea.
Ignoring President Biden’s call for unity, Democrats—led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer—shut out me and my Republican colleagues and instead focused on fast-tracking their highly partisan, nearly $2 trillion “COVID relief bill” through Congress. Despite what they’re calling the legislation, this package is full of spending that has absolutely nothing to do with addressing the immediate needs of COVID-19.
Hardworking Iowa taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill for Speaker Pelosi’s and Senator Schumer’s wish list of long-time liberal priorities. That’s why I worked to shed light on the extraneous provisions in the bill—and we had some success. After bringing attention to the $1.5 million of taxpayer dollars set aside for building a bridge from the state of New York to Canada, this partisan pet project was struck from the bill. We also exposed—and stopped—a cleverly-worded provision that earmarked $140 million for a subway in California’s Silicon Valley. What do these projects have to do with COVID? The answer is nothing.
Sadly, there is plenty of additional pork in this bill. There’s still a whopping $350 billion bailout of “blue” states that the Democrats crafted to reward states with mismanaged budgets and bad past behavior. The biggest winners include New York and California.
What else is in this mammoth package? A loophole that allows millionaires, yes millionaires, to take advantage of a program intended to help make quality child care affordable for working parents who are struggling to make ends meet. And then there are millions for so-called “environmental justice grants.” Instead, this money could be better used on things like broadband for schools that have needed additional help with connectivity during COVID-19. Unfortunately, with just nine percent of this bill actually going to COVID health spending, these are just a few examples—the liberal wish list is long.
I fully understand that there are still needs that must be addressed across the country. But instead of bridges and bailouts and money to millionaires, this package should be focused on immediate help to get folks back to work, kids in school, and vaccines in Iowans’ and all Americans’ arms.
The money Democrats want to spend isn’t monopoly money. It’s going to be paid out of the pockets of essential workers and others who are continuing to work, pay taxes, and keep America running. And of course, by my daughter and the generations to come.
As I’ve said, COVID relief should focus on COVID relief. Period. Instead, Democrats turned their back on bipartisanship for their own political interests and party priorities and shoved through their nearly $2 trillion bill without any Republican support.
Joni Ernst, a native of Red Oak and a combat veteran, represents Iowa in the United States Senate.
Tuesday, March 2, 2021
Ernst: “With a one-party monopoly of Washington, Democrats are back to their old spending games.”
U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) spoke on the Senate floor today calling out congressional Democrats for fast-tracking their highly partisan $1.9 trillion “COVID relief bill” through Congress, instead of working in a bipartisan way like Congress has done five previous times. Ernst shed light on the wish list of long-time liberal budget-busting priorities—that have nothing to do with the COVID-19 pandemic—included in the bill, and reiterated that relief should be focused on getting folks back to work and kids back in school.
Click here to watch Senator Ernst’s remarks.
Senator Ernst’s full remarks are below:
“With a one-party monopoly of Washington, D.C. Democrats are back to their old spending games.
“Most of the 1.9 trillion dollars within the Democrats’ ‘COVID’ package has absolutely nothing to do with COVID.
“Unlike the previous five pandemic relief bills that were approved with overwhelming bipartisan support, Democrats have shown no interest in working with Republicans and are instead fast-tracking this highly partisan bill through Congress.
“The bulk of this budget-busting bill is devoted to fulfilling a wish list of long-time liberal priorities, including—billion-dollar bailouts, progressive program expansions, and pricey partisan pet projects.
“Let’s talk about a few of those. Look at this right here: a New York bridge to Canada. That’s $1.5 million for a bridge connecting the state of New York to another country: Canada.
“Or what about this one? The cleverly-worded provision that earmarks – yes, I said it, folks – earmarking is already happening – $140 million to a subway in Silicon Valley in California. What does that have to do with COVID?
“And a whopping $350 billion blue state bailout that rewards the states that have imposed the strictest lockdowns.
“Folks, we should be rewarding the states that demonstrated leadership by finding ways to safely stay open, not those that shut down schools, closed businesses, and killed jobs.
“But most importantly, COVID relief should stay focused on COVID.
“There is still about $1 trillion of COVID funding that Congress previously approved that hasn’t even been spent yet. Yes folks, $1 trillion.
“So why are we looking at spending yet another $2 trillion, of course, on things that are not even related to COVID?
“That isn’t to say there aren’t still needs across the country, because there are. We know that. All across our country.
“But instead of bridges and bailouts, the money should be focused on immediate help to get our moms and dads back to work. To do that, we need to do a few things: One, lets safely reopen our schools; Number two, expand access to quality, affordable child care; and number three, distribute the vaccine as quickly as possible.
“While the bill does provide assistance for these purposes, even here the Democrats show how out of touch they are with what’s actually happening on the ground.
“For example, nearly $15 billion is included for the Child Care and Development Block Grant.
“At a time when so many moms are being forced to choose between their careers and children as a result of school closures, the support is very much needed.
“But, a loophole in the bill allows millionaires to use up this program which was created to help make quality child care affordable for working parents struggling to make ends meet.
“While the additional funding will certainly help many, expanding eligibility to millionaires who have the financial means to afford their own ‘nannies’ will not.
“While the bill also extends the enhanced unemployment benefit and provides an extra $400 per week for those who are out of work because of the pandemic, there again, another loophole, there is no income limit placed on the eligibility.
“That means someone who may be out of work but is still earning a million dollars or more qualifies for these bonus payments.
“You might laugh and ask, ‘How many people would apply for unemployment assistance if they were making a million dollars?’
“The answer is thousands.
“During the Great Recession just a decade ago, more than 3,000 individuals with adjusted gross incomes of $1 million collected unemployment benefits.
“Because this bill doesn’t cap who may receive support, jobless millionaires may end up collecting as much as $1 million in enhanced unemployment assistance every week.
“This is like a reverse millionaires’ tax.
“The Democrats are paying millionaires to not work, with taxes paid by lower-income workers. How do you like that socialist scheme?
“So if you are a coastal elite, living in California or New York and maybe making a million bucks despite being out of work, this bill is especially generous for you.
“But folks: this isn’t Monopoly money! This is the real deal, and someone has to eventually pick up the tab.
“Sadly, it is going to be paid out of the pockets of essential workers and others who are continuing to work, those that pay taxes and keep America running.
“Now, as an eternal optimist, I am hopeful that when this bill comes before the Senate, my Democrat colleagues will actually work with us to cut the pork and refocus the bill on what it should be focused on: the immediate needs of the COVID pandemic.
“Not a fancy subway. Not a bridge to Canada, and certainly, not wealthy state bailouts. Focus on the immediate needs of the COVID pandemic.
“And if not, I’m afraid the Democrats will just “keep passing go” and collecting hundreds of dollars from hardworking taxpayers across this country, only to pay for their pricey partisan pet projects and wish list items that have nothing to do with COVID-19.”
Tuesday, March 2, 2021
With Iowa’s Redistricting Deadline Looming, Ernst Urges Census Bureau to Quickly Get Data to the State, After COVID-Related Delays
Iowa’s state constitution requires a new legislative districting map be signed into law by September 2021
As Iowa’s deadline for submitting its new legislative redistricting map approaches later this year, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) is urging the U.S. Census Bureau to expedite getting its 2020 data to the state after delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Iowa’s state constitution requires state lawmakers to submit and sign into law a new legislative redistricting map by September 15, 2021. If the new map is not finalized by then, the Iowa Supreme Court is required to draw it, bypassing the bipartisan commission that would otherwise provide the general assembly with draft maps and taking the redistricting process out of the hands of the state legislature.
Today, Ernst sent a letter to the U.S. Census Bureau describing the urgent need to get the 2020 census data to Iowa “as soon as possible.”
Click here to see Ernst’s full letter to U.S. Census Bureau Acting Director Ron Jarmin.
Friday, January 29, 2021
Ernst: Taxpayers Win in the ‘War on Waste’ in Annual Defense Bill
The Iowa senator secured a number of key measures that hold the Pentagon accountable, increase transparency, and help rid the department of duplication
U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), known as the Senate’s leading foe of wasteful government spending, won important victories in her ‘War on Waste’ in the Fiscal Year ‘21 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that could potentially save taxpayers billions of dollars.
“I’m glad to report that Iowa taxpayers, and folks across the country, won a battle in the ‘War on Waste’ in this year’s defense bill. Through my efforts, we’ve made spending more transparent, curbed needless duplication, and we’re holding accountable, not rewarding, bad behavior and questionable actions by the Pentagon,” said Senator Ernst.
“Taxpayers have a right to know how much money the Defense Department wastes on boondoggles like hooking animals on cocaine and putting pigs on treadmills. We applaud combat veteran Senator Joni Ernst for championing this important transparency measure to require price tags on often-wasteful Pentagon spending so taxpayers can hold government accountable. Now, the Senate must pass Senator Ernst’s common sense COST Act—which is supported by a supermajority of Americans—to ensure all federal agencies and their grantees publicly disclose how they spend taxpayers’ hard-earned money,” said Anthony Bellotti, president and founder of taxpayer watchdog group White Coat Waste Project.
“Senator Ernst’s transparency provision is a welcome reform that gives taxpayers the information they need to help keep government accountable and limited to purpose. Too often, federal spending, including funding that goes through the Department of Defense, does little to enhance our national and economic security. Setting priorities is especially critical now as our nation struggles to recover from the effects of COVID-19. We need a more efficient and transparent government to help us grow at home and compete abroad. This is an important and timely victory for America’s taxpayers, families, farmers and small businesses,” said Adam Andrzejewski, CEO and founder of OpentheBooks.com.
Through Ernst’s COST Act—which was included in this year’s NDAA– grant recipients who get money from the Pentagon will now be required to include a price tag disclosing the cost to taxpayers for their military research. Ernst has highlighted a number of questionable projects supported by DOD funding, including Navy research analyzing puppy personalities to determine why canines are so doggone friendly and an Air Force report on how to develop psychic teleportation to use mind powers to travel through parallel universes and to alien planets.
Senator Ernst also won on an amendment to get the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the most expensive cost overruns in weapon systems and forces to Pentagon to disclose to Congress their top 10 most expensive weapons to fix and maintain.
Under Senator Ernst’s leadership as the chairman of the Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee, the FY21 NDAA cut $300 million in research and development programs that were wasteful, duplicative, or not a priority. This funding was redirected towards urgent research needs, such as getting a deployable vaccine for our troops and for funding Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) programs.
Senator Ernst also successfully passed an amendment to require the most senior science and technology leaders to meet to discuss their research to ensure that it is coordinated and the Pentagon doesn’t continue to try to fund the same research more than once.
Another Ernst win, the GAO – Congress’ watchdog for waste – will investigate if the billions of dollars in bonuses paid to defense contractors, for projects that are over budget or behind schedule, are warranted.